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Home » Cayuga County » Cayuga Nation sues U.S. government over leadership recognition dispute

Cayuga Nation sues U.S. government over leadership recognition dispute

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  • Staff Report 

The Cayuga Nation has initiated legal action against the United States and its Department of Justice (DOJ), seeking to resolve a contentious leadership dispute.

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Filed on November 13 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the lawsuit aims to prevent the DOJ from recognizing any internal leadership conflicts within the nation.

The complaint also addresses the DOJ’s alleged failure to acknowledge and cooperate with the sovereign government of the Cayuga Nation, as recognized by the United States Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The lawsuit has been filed by the council led by Clint Halftown, who has been acknowledged by the Bureau as the nation’s representative since 2016. However, Halftown’s leadership has been contested by the Cayuga Council of Chiefs.


The complaint underscores that over 60% of enrolled Cayuga members recognized Halftown’s council as the nation’s legitimate government in 2016, a decision later upheld by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Despite this, the DOJ has not acknowledged Halftown’s council, impacting the nation’s access to federal criminal databases and cooperation on jurisdictional matters.

The Cayuga Nation, through this lawsuit, is seeking a court order mandating the DOJ to recognize and meet with Halftown and other tribal officials. They are also requesting a prohibition on the DOJ from acting on the basis of an internal leadership dispute within the nation, along with attorney fees and any additional relief deemed appropriate by the court.